How To Deal With Insomnia: 11 Tips, From The Experts
Updated August 27, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Do you find yourself lying awake at night struggling to fall asleep? Or, do you fall asleep easily but then wake up continually throughout the night? You may feel like no matter what you seem to do, you just can’t get the rest that you need. You could be dealing with insomnia. It can be a frustrating situation and have a negative impact on other areas of your life. But the following tips can help you learn how to deal with insomnia and start feeling rested.
What Are The Symptoms Of Insomnia
There are different types of insomnia that you could be dealing with. Acute insomnia is when you experience difficulty sleeping because of a life experience or situation that is happening. This could be feeling anxious over an upcoming meeting, going through a difficult relationship, or losing a loved one. For the most part, when the situation is over, your sleep will return to normal.
Chronic insomnia is when you experience difficulty sleeping for at least three nights a week, and it lasts for several months. Many different things can lead to chronic insomnia, and it can have a long-term negative impact on your sleep and health.
If you have insomnia, you may find yourself lying awake without being able to fall asleep. And you may struggle with tossing and turning throughout the night.
You may notice that the lack of sleep you are experiencing starts to take a toll on you in other areas of your life. You may lack the energy that you need to do the tasks that you’re trying to accomplish. Or, you may find that your quality of work decreases because you struggle with concentration since you’re so tired.
What Causes Insomnia
As mentioned above, there are many different causes of insomnia. It could be caused by a situation in your life that is causing you stress or worry. Or, it could be a symptom of a problem that you’re having with your physical health. For example, if you struggle with heartburn, it may make it difficult for you to lay down and fall asleep at night. Or, if you have restless leg syndrome, you may find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Insomnia can also be connected with mental health challenges. For example, anxiety and depression can also lead to a change in sleep habits.
How To Beat Insomnia
If you’re struggling with sleeping, the following tips may help you overcome insomnia.
- Create A Sleep Schedule
Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day can help get your body used to sleeping at night. You may feel like sleeping in when it’s the weekend, but doing so could make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. It may help you to work on training your body to fall asleep at a consistent time. Once your body adjusts to this, you may struggle with sleep if you start to switch it up again.
If you enjoy taking naps throughout the day, you may benefit from cutting this out of your schedule for a while. This will help you to see if taking naps throughout the day is impacting your ability to get a good night’s sleep each night.
- Kick The Caffeine
You may rely on your cup of coffee in the morning to help get you going after a rough night of sleep, but the caffeine that you consume could have a negative impact on your ability to overcome insomnia. Caffeine is a stimulant, and depending on what time of day you consume it, it can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Research has found that having caffeine within six hours of going to sleep may cause you to lose at least one hour of sleep at night.
Increased caffeine consumption can also lead to physical side effects that could impact getting a good night’s rest. This can include things like nausea, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, and diarrhea.
- Cut Back On The Alcohol Consumption
There are several different ways that alcohol consumption can impact your ability to sleep. There is a strong connection between alcohol use disorders and insomnia. Some people who struggle with insomnia use alcohol as a way to deal with their lack of sleep and mental health challenges. On the other hand, some people who abuse alcohol and other substances develop insomnia because of consumption.
Alcohol can interfere with REM sleep. It can disrupt the high-quality sleep that you can get in a night. For these reasons, you may benefit from reducing your consumption of alcohol if you struggle with insomnia. However, if you have an alcohol use disorder, symptoms of withdrawal from cutting out alcohol may also interfere with your sleep. It can be helpful to talk with a mental health professional or doctor about your best options for moving forward and improving your symptoms and disorder.
- Get More Exercise (At The Right Time Of The Day)
Getting regular exercise or physical activity can help you be more tired and ready to sleep at the end of the day. However, if you are exercising too close to going to sleep, exercise may have the opposite impact on you.
It’s important to pay attention to the impact that exercise has on your ability to sleep well. If you notice that you have a hard time winding down after exercising, it may be better to keep most of your physical activity to earlier parts of the day.
- Keep The Bedroom For Bedroom Activities
You want your body to learn that your bedroom is for sleeping (and possibly sex). Avoid doing other activities in your room. Don’t bring your laptop in to work from your bed and try not to put a TV in the room. You want your body to associate going into your bedroom with sleep, not other activities.
- Skip The Late-Night Snack
After you eat, your body has to work to digest the food that you consume. If you are used to eating a very late dinner or consuming a late-night snack, it may be impacting your ability to fall asleep.
If you’re struggling with insomnia, try moving up the time that you eat dinner and then cut out any after-dinner snacks. You may notice a benefit in your ability to sleep and feel rested in the morning.
- Create The Right Sleeping Environment
Creating the right environment in your bedroom can also help you to get a better night’s sleep. Keeping your room too bright at night can interrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. You may also benefit from keeping the temperature cooler in your room and adding white noise like a running fan.
If you are going to sleep when it is still light out or need to sleep after the sun comes up, it can be helpful to add shades to your room that will block out the light.
If you struggle with insomnia because of anxiety, you could benefit from using a weighted blanket as well.
- Write Out Your Worries
If you’re tossing and turning at night because you are worried and stressed, you may benefit from journaling before you go to bed. This can allow you to get all the anxious thoughts out of your head and onto paper. It can also help to remove the worry that you’ll forget about something important that you need to remember.
Keeping a paper and pen next to your bed can also be helpful if you wake up in the middle of the night with something you don’t want to forget. The ability to write it down can help your brain to relax afterward to fall back asleep.
- Give Meditation A Try
Meditation may help you to clear your head to get a better night’s sleep. There are sleep apps and meditation apps that you can use on your phone that will guide you through meditation as you fall asleep. This can help you to relax your body and quiet your mind as you prepare to get a good night’s rest.
- Do A Little Deep Breathing
Practicing deep breathing as you fall asleep can help your body to relax and your mind to shift from focusing on the events of the day to your breathing. Combining deep breathing and meditation can be a good way to relax and fall asleep.
- Give Therapy A Try
If you continue to struggle with insomnia, it can be helpful to talk with a licensed therapist like those at BetterHelp. Your insomnia could be the result of mental health challenges such as anxiety or depression. If this is the case, the tips above may still help, but you may also benefit from different forms of therapy or possibly medication as well.
A therapist or doctor can help you explore further options to ensure that you get the rest that you need.